We’re officially into the first week of October, so everyone’s releasing their scary movies for Halloween season. Last year, Hulu went big with its Hellraiser remake. And just over a week ago, Hulu platformed its unique spin on alien invasions, No One Will Save You. Now its latest release, Appendage, promises to mix horror and comedy in its Gen-Z infused take on anxiety and self-doubt. With a young cast of up-and-comers, Appendage has an interesting hook that’s mostly divided critics.
Hannah is a talented fashion designer with a great best friend and a relationship going in the right direction. On the surface, her life looks likes filled with potential. But Hannah suffers from anxieties about her career, relationships, and past traumas. Her struggles to bury these insecurities to make things easier for the people around her begins to manifest in sharp abdominal pains. And then somehow her anxieties taken on a physical form when a grotesque appendage emerges from her body. As the appendage grows and takes form, it increasingly assumes more control over Hannah’s life.
Appendage is Packed With Interesting Ideas and Big Themes
Written and directed by Anna Zlokovic, Appendage is filled with plenty of interesting ideas. From its opening scene, Zlokovic immediately establishes the emotional complexity of Hadley Robinson’s ‘Hannah’ and her relationships. Subsequent scenes neatly arrange how Hannah’s family, friend, and boss place implicit and explicit strains on her. The messaging around how we ignore and push away our anxiety, depression, and trauma isn’t exactly subtle. But it’s also important subject matter ripe for exploration in horror. Using body horror to exemplify the tolls of mental illness is just one of the clever ideas in Appendage. And its bigger themes around coming to terms with one’s own insecurities and limitations is big stuff for a genre movie.
…Appendage is filled with plenty of interesting ideas.
Some of the rules that govern the ‘appendages’ and their ‘hosts’ get a bit foggy over the course of the Hulu thriller. There’s a couple of fun mid-act twists that introduce some later narrative problems in service of the ‘bigger ideas’. Of course, Hadley Robinson’s dual performance as ‘Hannah’ and her ‘appendage’ makes it easy to overlook these smaller issues. And Emily Hampshire bring a lot of wicked fun to her role as another ‘appendage’ and something of a tour guide for Hannah. Across the board, all of the performances feel fun and fresh, particularly Kausar Mohammed who adds necessary levity now and then.
Appendage Can’t Quite Stitch Together All of Its Ideas Into a Compelling Movie
Despite all of these big ideas, Appendage never comes together a complete viewing experience. Promotional materials for the Hulu release characterize the movie as a horror-comedy. Yet the horror elements definitely come across as a mixed bag. Yes, Zlokovic includes bits of body horror on a very surface level. There’s a yucky body wound and a couple of scenes with a long protruding tongue doing … well, some sort of sucking of body energy. But there’s little here that qualifies as the kind of body horror you’d find in most Rated-R horror movies. In general, the horror here is pretty light stuff with little scares and something of a perfunctory finale that fails to capitalize on the potential for suspense that’s set up.
…Appendage never comes together a complete viewing experience.
Yet Appendage also falls short on the comedy end of the spectrum. As mentioned above, Mohammed’s ‘Esther’ lightens things up occasionally and her banter with Robinson’s ‘Hannah’ is fun. However, like the connotation of body horror, when you say ‘horror comedy’, the term conjures up images of over-the-top carnage or biting satire. Perhaps Zlokovic spent so much time crafting a thoughtful commentary that she neglected to add more horror and comedy elements. Whatever the case, Appendage never quite clicks as a cohesive movie
Appendage Circles Around a Good Movie, But Never Quite Gets There
While its concept borrows most recently from James Wan’s Malignant and, to a lesser extent, 80s cult classic Basket Case, Appendage feels like a wholly unique horror movie. In fact, the idea here isn’t the Hulu thriller’s major problem. Zlokovic weaves in some big ideas into her movie’s story and mythology – there are deep themes here. Nevertheless, the execution of these ideas and themes never fully clicks. Light on scares and humor, Appendage also barely qualifies as body horror as what’s put on screen feels pretty light. All of the performances are strong. The production values are also top notch. But it’s never as involving as its own story demands.